Just over a week ago a series of events happened that have led to some very frantic activity at Social Work Research in New Zealand.
A visiting social work academic Kate Morris was here in Aotearoa New Zealand to speak at the Australasian Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect. We had made contact through mutual acquaintances and Kate had kindly agreed to give a seminar at my workplace, the School of Counselling, Human Services and Social Work. There was a good turnout and local social workers and researchers found we had many issues in common, not realising that the following week would come an announcement that would have in-boxes bulging, Facebook pages lurching from slumber with likes and comments and Twitter buzzing. Less than a week later on April 1st Minister of Social Development Anne Tolley announced the formation of an ‘independent expert panel’ to lead a ‘complete overhaul ‘ of Child, Youth and Family. Many people, including social workers may well have thought, “oh not another one”. There have been many reviews. But this one felt very different.
Matters that alarmed me included the timing, especially given the current rollout of the Vulnerable Children Act; the review’s inception so soon after a major workload review that made many excellent recommendations; the lack of clarity about outcomes in the terms of reference, and the way it was announced. Overseas attendees at the Australasian Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect conference held in Auckland were frankly shocked that the minister spoke to the conference on Tuesday but didn’t mention this review at all-then announced it the day after. She chose NOT to announce a major child protection initiative (which had been the subject of Cabinet discussion since February) to an audience of around 500 passionate advocates for children! We can only imagine that she feared a hostile reception when she announced the panel.I am sure she was right, she may well have faced a walkout, but how cowardly.
Since then a great deal has happened. The Commissioner for Children suggested social work graduates didn’t know enough about family violence. The composition of the panel and the commissioner’s casual criticism of social work education caused anger and a few like-minded people started to write and use social media to get discussion going. It was just before Easter so action needed to be snappy. Over Easter we wrote the following pieces that explore the many concerns raised about this hasty and ill-conceived review:
* Not independent and not expert- so what is the agenda?
* The Child, Youth and Family Review: Reading between the lines
*Big brains and the modernization of Child, Youth and Family
*The CYF Review, the Commissioner for Children and the skills and expertise of social workers
And on Wednesday, one week later we launched a new progressive site for social workers:
Re-imagining Social Work is a collective of social workers, social work academics, researchers and others who share a passion for, and a commitment to the development of modern, progressive, inclusive, democratic, and culturally responsive social work services in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Go there, check out the first post Detect and rescue or genuine engagement with families? Which way does the wind blow for child protection? Make a comment, follow us and watch this new space for social work develop. Meanwhile at Social Work Research in New Zealand I will continue to talk about social work research and invite guest authors to talk about their work.